Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Nerve Wracking Addition to Thanksgiving

Have you ever tried to make something that you've never tried or even seen before? I hate cook books that don't have pictures because I like to see what items look like so I know if mine look right. Anyone else? Now, have you ever made something that you've never tried or seen before, but that a large portion of your perspective diners not only remember but remember as a major part of their childhood? Yeah, pretty nerve wracking.
This was what I faced preparing for Thanksgiving. For some idiotic reason, that I have since forgotten, I volunteered to make the cranberry sauce for our Thanksgiving celebration using my great grandmother's recipe. My mom, aunt, and grandmother all very clearly remember this recipe, they remember not only eating it but also helping to prepare it. Needless to say I was a little stressed out. And when Doug turned to me half way through the making of the sauce, when our poor tiny Cuisinart food processor was whining in complaint and the counters were covered in fruit, and asked "does this look right?" it dawned on me that I should stop volunteering to make things........ ok, not really. But it did dawn on me that I really did not want to mess this up. Luckily it was deemed acceptable, if not quite sweet enough, and people actually did eat it, although we have a decent amount left.

This actually wasn't too hard to make, and it would be a lot easier with a larger food processor, and is really good. Although it didn't end up being the only cranberry sauce on the table, you can't take away the canned stuff without warning, I think it was a hit. And I will definitely be trying some more of my great grandmother's recipes, hopefully in slightly less stressful situations.

Grandma's Cranberry Sauce
I don't know the original source on this, it's a very old family recipe

2 Apples
2 Oranges
1 Bag of Cranberries
Sugar to taste
Grind fruit (can use a food processor); mix in bowl and add sugar to taste.

Variations: To make Jell-o salad add above ingredients to one prepared box of cranberry Jell-o and allow to chill for at least 1 hour. I didn't do this but my mom says it is good.

Bringing the Cranberries to Thanksgiving

When my family has Thanksgiving you can be sure that there will be at least one pumpkin treat, if not more, and in recent years I've made sure that pecans are represented as well. So this year, when others beat me to the pumpkin and pecan items, I was at a loss for what to make. I kept finding great looking recipes, but they all featured one of the two items that were already going to be accounted for when our families gathered for our first joint family Thanksgiving at my parents' house. Then I had a flash of genius: cranberries! I was already going to be buying some for the cranberry sauce, so why not just grab an extra bag. Then I quickly remembered this awesome cranberry walnut bread recipe that I saw on Katie's blog and my dessert was born.

I think this bread was a nice alternative to the pies that were brought along to the party (and my goodness were there a lot of pies!). It was a bit of a lighter bite, with a nice fresh taste, courtesy of the orange zest and juice and cranberries. The walnuts were also a nice addition, even though I am not crazy about them. This would be a great item to bring in to a work party or a Christmas event as a nice alternative to the traditional dessert items of the season. And it's also a great item because it can be made a day or two ahead of when you need it and will be perfect, I made this Wednesday evening and it was perfect.

Cranberry Walnut Bread

2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp grated orange zest
2/3 c. juice from an orange
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. shelled walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 c. fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a standard loaf pan.
In a small mixing bowl, combine orange juice, eggs, butter, and stir to combine thoroughly; set aside.
In large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Add orange zest and stir to combine.
Add wet ingredients to well in dry ingredients and mix until just combined (don't over mix).
Fold in walnuts and cranberries and transfer mixture to prepared loaf pan.
Place into oven and bake until knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.
Remove bread from oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes.
Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.
Wrap and put away for 1 to 2 days before serving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Blog!!

So today is my one year blog anniversary! I can't believe I've been doing this for a whole year. I felt rather silly at first but now I'm so proud of this blog and really love working on it. I've really been trying to make interesting things lately so that I have stuff to blog about, which has really helped the variety in my kitchen.

I've made some great friends because of this blog, through things like the recipe exchange, blog events, and TWD. I'm really loving sharing great recipes and ideas with people and am very excited to continue. This is also my 50th blog post and I'm really looking forward to the next 50!

On that note, let me know what you think. Any ideas for blog events I should join? Anything you'd like to see? What types of recipes do you like?

And finally, thank you so much for reading this. I'm seriously amazed any time someone says they've read my mind, and even more so if they've made something from it and liked it. So thank you! I do this for you and you are such a great source of encouragement. So here's to many more tasty and interesting blog posts. Cheers!

TWD: Twofer Pie

So after taking last week off from TWD because it was my birthday and we had an abundance of cake I was really excited to try this pie. Basically it is a pumpkin pie with a pecan pie on top, which makes me a very happy girl. I didn't start liking pecan pie until 2 years ago when I made one for Doug and his family and discovered that I actually like it. This pie doesn't disappoint, it has a nice, creamy pumpkin layer with a crunchy, sweet pecan layer on top, so it's the best of both pie worlds. Doug has already asked me to make it again, which is a great sign.

I had to bake this longer than what the recipe called for, almost 20 more minutes actually, before the center was done. Other than that this is an incredibly easy recipe. Doug and I decided that we prefer this cold, which is how we like regular pumpkin pie. This would be great with whipped cream or even vanilla ice cream.

This recipe was picked by Vibi of La Casserole carree. Check out her blog.

Thanksgiving Twofer Pie from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, page 321.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Maple-flavored Breakfast

This blog is seriously lacking in breakfast items (other than muffins), I'm the first to admit this. The reason? We usually don't eat breakfast 1. at home, 2. together, or 3. sometimes at all. Monday through Friday I eat breakfast in the car on my way to work or incredibly quickly once I get to work and Saturday and Sunday usually find me eating oatmeal, another muffin, something that isn't really a breakfast food, or nothing at all. Most days of the week Doug doesn't eat breakfast, or if he does it is a poptart, something I've baked, or something that isn't really a breakfast food ( a dietitian would have a field day with us). Sometimes, if I'm feeling particularly energetic, I'll make a quick breakfast on a weekend if Doug doesn't have to go in too early, but that is pretty rare anymore. So when Doug told me that he had taken the first weekend in November off I knew I had to do something special. So when this recipe showed up in my email a few days later I knew it was meant to be.

I had never actually made a breakfast casserole before. I had tried many of them at other places, but had just never been brave enough to try one myself. This was incredibly easy, it is definitely a great starter recipe for those entering the world of breakfast casseroles. I followed this recipe exactly, using maple flavored sausage to bump up the flavor. I was a little worried actually about maple flavor (especially the syrup) with eggs (I really hate those McGriddle things at McDonald's- ick!) but this is actually really great. It took a little longer to cook than I thought it would but it ended up turning out perfectly. We had some leftover and Doug said it warmed up really well. Enjoy!

Maple Sausage Breakfast Casserole
Adapted from The Cook's Country Cookbook

- makes 6 servings -

6-8 frozen waffles (1/2-inch thick, not Belgian-style)
12 ounces maple breakfast sausage, crumbled
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups whole or low-fat milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375ºF. Arrange the waffles in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp, about 10 minutes per side.
2. Brown the sausage in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, breaking it apart with a spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
3. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Add half of the waffles in a single layer. Add half of the sausage and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Repeat layering the waffles, sausage, and 1/2 cup more cheese. Whisk the eggs, milk, maple syrup, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the casserole. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place weights on top. Refrigerate the casserole for at least 1 hour or overnight.
4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325ºF. Let the casserole stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Uncover the casserole and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup the cheese over the top. Bake until the edges and center are puffed, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Cut into pieces and serve.

Another Birthday Cake

So I am slowly starting to get into making birthday cakes, very, very slowly. I'm not very good yet, so I've only made them for family members so far (because they have to say they like the cake no matter how bad it is, right?). This cake was actually really easy to make. I used a recipe for vanilla cupcakes from Annie's Eats, doubled it, and then used frosting from a can (hey, it was for young kids and they like what they like, right?). This cake is really light and has a good flavor to it, so I will definitely be making it again. The decorations are just gel icing, green sanding sugar, and conversation hearts turned over (don't worry, they were still fresh). The birthday girls love the cake, which made me very happy. I've also made cupcakes with this recipe and they were really good too, so give it try sometime soon.

Vanilla Cupcakes

I doubled this recipe and baked it in a 9 x 13 cake pan at the same temperature for about 25 minutes.

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (optional) I omitted this
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. Set pan aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides and beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest, if using.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in pan 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Kugelhopf

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was a bit of a challenge for me. First of all, the recipe, which was picked by Yolanda of The All-purpose Girl, is for a yeast cake called Kugelhopf. This recipe scared me because of the fact that I have never made anything by myself with yeast. Nothing, ever. So I was very nervous that I would somehow mess this up and end up looking silly on my second week in the group. But amazingly everything with the dough went just fine. My dough rose like it was supposed to each time, much to my amazement. So when the last rise in the fridge was done I had a perfectly risen dough.

Then came the real trouble. This cake can be made in a special Kugelhopf pan or in a regular bundt pan, I planned to use a bundt pan. I have never made anything in a bundt pan, so I planned to use the one from a Kitchen Aid set I had gotten a while ago at Linens 'n Things for the first time. Well, lets just say I learned an important lesson: always check your pans before you start baking. It turns out I had a mini bundt pan, not the full size one I thought I had. Luckily I had read on the Tuesdays with Dorie site that you could make these in a muffin pan, so that's what I did. So we had Kugelhopf rolls, instead of a cake.

This recipe was actually a lot simpler than I thought it would be. It has a nice texture and a good taste to it. I think if I make it again I will use something other than raisins in it, I'm not a big fan of raisins in my baked goods. Overall though this was an easy recipe and, I think, a nice introduction to yeast.

Kugelhopf from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Pages 61 to 63.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Caving to Peer Pressure

I never really had to deal with peer pressure in high school. I think I was just so far into the world of band geeks and drama freaks that I just never noticed it. Sadly, the same is not true for me as an adult apparently. First I let myself get "talked into" (also known as commanded) reading young adult book about a girl who falls in love with a vampire. And now I have let myself be talked into joining a blog group where everyone bakes a recipe a week from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home To Yours and blogs about it on Tuesdays. The vampire book thing ended up being great (thanks for the pressure on that one!) and I think this baking thing may be ok too (thanks Jessica and Maci!).

So for those of you who don't know about this blogging group let me explain. The group is called Tuesdays with Dorie and is composed of a huge variety of food bloggers from all over who have Dorie's book. Each week a member selects one recipe and everyone bakes it and then blogs about it. They ask that you do not post the recipe to your blog to encourage more people to go buy the book and support the publishing world (and as a major book fanatic (both cookbook and other) you know I love that! I had been toying with the idea of joining this group for a while now, but was always really intimidated by the awesome things everyone was making. However, recently the group set a cut off date to join, you had to sign up by 10/31 if you wanted to be a member. So the peer pressure had been strong the last few weeks (ahem, Jessica) and I finally caved in, er I mean decided to join.

So, this is my first Tuesdays with Dorie recipe and I was both excited and nervous about it. The recipe was chosen by Piggy of Piggy's Cookin Journal (check it out!) and is for Rugelach. I have had this treat before but had never made it, so I was excited to try it. I was also slightly frightened because this is another recipe that calls for making and rolling out a dough. I survived the rolling process and they turned out pretty good. They didn't really hold their shape very well though, but they are still good. I think I am going to try to make another batch and play around with the shape until I get it to work (and goodness knows I could use the rolling practice).

So check out the other bloggers who are doing Tuesdays with Dorie and check back here on Tuesdays for the newest TWD recipe.

Recipe: Rugelach from pages 150 and 151 in Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Small Break From Cooking

So my kitchen got a nice gift Saturday night: it got deep cleaned. I will admit that I am not the best cleaner. I tend to clean in waves, sometimes I'm in the mood to really clean and will do everything but other times I barely have the desire to wipe the counter. However, I have realized lately that I am a lot happier when the house, especially the kitchen, is clean. So when Katie at The Hyper Homemaker (also the same Katie as Good Things Catered) started a fall cleaning challenge I got the motivation I needed. So Saturday night at about 10:30, after reading Katie's blog posts, I started cleaning our kitchen.

I cleaned out, wiped out, and organized the fridge, freezer, and cabinets. I wiped the doors of all the drawers and cabinets (even the fake ones), reorganized our tiny counter tops, and organized all of dish washing tools. I had already done the pantry earlier that day when we got back from Sam's so that was good. I also scrubbed the stove top and the microwave until the were practically shiny. I was really please with what all I got accomplished, though there are still a few things I need to do in there. But I still have plenty of time for that. So thanks for the inspiration Katie and check out her blog for her daily fall cleaning posts.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Impossibly Yummy

I'll admit it: I use Bisquick. I use it for pancakes, cheesy garlic biscuits, and this cheeseburger pie. Go ahead and judge if you must, I don't mind. I like Bisquick. It is a great way to make things quickly, easily, and on a budget. We buy the big box from Sam's and it lasts us quite a while. I first made this recipe when I still lived with my parents and was amazed at how easy it was. This is one of the recipes off the back of the box and, according to the Betty Crocker site, is one of the most requested recipes for the company.
This is a great item to make on a night when you want something quick and easy but still warm and filling. When I made this I actually cooked my hamburger the night before so that I could quickly mix this up and throw it in the oven when I got home. I also doubled the recipe to make two pies so that we could get a couple of lunches out of it, it really reheats very well. So, if you can handle using Bisquick (and I'm sure you can) you should give this a try, it really is great.

Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie
From: (also on the Bisquick box)

1 Pound Lean (at least 80%) Ground Beef
1 Large Onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese (4 oz)
1/2 Cup Original Bisquick® Mix
1 Cup Milk
2 Eggs

Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray.
In 10-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in salt. Spread in pie plate. Sprinkle with cheese.
In small bowl, stir remaining ingredients with fork or wire whisk until blended. Pour into pie plate.
Bake about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Like a Bat Out of Hell

I think Meatloaf gets a bad rap. No, not the singer. I mean the food, that brown loaf so commonly made fun of as being a staple of horrible lunchrooms and fifties kitchens. I love meatloaf. I think that stems from the fact that we didn't have it all the time when I was growing up. My mom made meatloaf for special meals only, such as birthdays, anniversaries, good grades, etc. And yes, I do remember requesting meatloaf one or two times for my birthday meal growing up (hey, I never said I was a normal kid).
My mom's meatloaf is incredibly simple: meat, bread crumbs, eggs. Worcester sauce, and ketchup are the basic ingredients (no onions in my parent's household, much to Doug's dismay, but sometimes a little onion powder). So I based my recipe off of this, with just a few tweaks for our taste (no onions this time but I am sure I will have to give in eventually). I really recommend taking this recipe and changing it to please your tastes. Maybe you like onions in your meatloaf, maybe you hate Worcester sauce. Do whatever you want to make this taste good to you. We owe it to meatloaf to give it a chance to shed it's horrible reputation.

By me (Adapted from my mom, Connie)

2 Pounds Ground Beef
2 Eggs
1 Cup Bread Crumbs
1 Teaspoon Garlic (I have a jar of minced garlic (yes, gasp!) but you could add however many cloves make you happy)
1 Teaspoon Season Salt
3 Shakes of Worcester Sauce
2 Shakes of Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Steak Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray pan with non stick spray (I use a roasting pan with the tray in it).
Mix all ingredients together. Form into a log or loaf shape and put into pan.
Shake a little more Worcester sauce and steak sauce on top if desired.
Bake at 350 for about 1 hour or until completely cooked.

This can be eaten with ketchup or steak sauce if desired. I think this is even better the next day for lunch.